Flyers’ Success Shouldn’t Change Focus on Future

The Philadelphia Flyers have found success as of late. Prior to a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night, the team had been riding an eight-game winning streak. Thanks to their stretch of success, the Flyers finds themselves within reach of a playoff spot after being all but finished in the postseason race. However, despite a recent string of victories, the Flyers’ focus on the future shouldn’t change.

Chuck Fletcher’s Mission to Improve

With the National Hockey League’s trade deadline rapidly approaching, many were left to wonder what the team might do to bolster the lineup. Luckily, general manager Chuck Fletcher cleared things up. On Jan. 28, Fletcher held a brief press conference to express his thoughts on possible roster moves.

Chuck Fletcher
Fletcher was active during his time with the Minnesota Wild. Will he bring that activity to Philadelphia? (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Jim Mone, File)

“We could both buy and sell, but I guess my point is, every decision we make, if we’re going to try to improve our team going forward and we can get that player now, great,” he said, “To be better next year, we may have to try to get better this year. That’s what we’re trying to do, whether it’s the coaches on the ice, or adding players, or whatever we have to do.” Mainly, Fletcher’s goal is to do his best to make the necessary changes as soon as he can.

The Wayne Simmonds Question Remains

One potentially big change is still up in the air. As it’s known, forward Wayne Simmonds is in the final season of his current contract with the Flyers. The 30-year-old is set to become a free agent come July 1, yet it’s likely that the team won’t let him leave without some sort of return.

In the swirling trade winds, Simmonds’ name has come up on the radar of teams like the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators. Aside from speculation, not much else has come to light about potential landing spots for the power forward. However, as the Feb. 25 deadline inches closer, don’t be surprised to see the rumors start ramping up.

Jake Allen Blues Wayne Simmonds Flyers
Simmonds’ name is high on the list of trade candidates in the NHL. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues and Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers, January 6, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Ideally, the return for a player like Simmonds would be a mid-to-top-six forward. Something Philadelphia has lacked at points this season and before has been depth scoring. For the right player, the seven-year Flyer would be exchanged for just that. The team itself sits at 22nd in the NHL when it comes to overall goals scored. Obviously, if Simmonds were to be moved, he’d be traded for someone to bolster the Flyers’ scoring abilities.

Picking a Partner for Carter Hart

Another area of focus for the Flyers is goaltending. They have used a whopping seven different goalies so far this season. However, one of those netminders has been turning heads. Highly-touted prospect Carter Hart has been nothing short of outstanding as he’s come on the scene in the NHL.

On Monday, the 20-year-old was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week on top of being named the Rookie of the Month for January. Hart’s stats have spoken for themselves as he owns a 10-5-1 record accompanied by a .925 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average. The young star backstopped the Flyers to seven out of their recent eight wins and helped the team earn win no. 2,000 against the Vancouver Canucks.

With Hart showing his exciting potential, the question remains as to who can carry the load of an NHL season alongside him. Barring any major changes, the fresh-faced goalie will likely be a mainstay with the Flyers next season. That being said, he’ll need a partner. Right now, the team arguably doesn’t have that.

Veteran goalie Brian Elliott may see some time as a tandem with Hart soon, but not too soon. Per CBS Sports, Elliott is close to getting back in action. However, he could see himself with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms first for a conditioning assignment. Regardless of what’s to come, Elliott, along with Michal Neuvirth, will likely be done with the Flyers at season’s end.

Is Mike Smith the Man for the Job?

A name that comes to mind on the topic of a partner for Hart is Mike Smith. The 36-year-old is in the final season of his current contract with the Calgary Flames. Little-to-no information has come to light about him being traded, so he could ride out the rest of the season with his current club. If Smith hits the open market, the Flyers could sign him as a viable piece of their goaltending duo.

Smith hasn’t posted the best stats with the Flames this season but has still held his own, winning 14 out of 25 games he’s started. In a perfect world, the veteran netminder would be able to start an estimated 30 games or so, taking the load off Hart when needed. With or without Smith, the Flyers are still in need of a dependable goalie to complement their young star.

Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith
Smith could be a reasonable option to compliment Carter Hart as a goalie partner. Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite a string of victories for the Flyers, the focus on improving shouldn’t be changed. The acquisition of a depth scorer and reliable goaltender are two pillars of the team’s mission to get better. Through imminent trades and/or free agency, they have a huge opportunity to make the necessary changes in order to bring themselves back to the top. As the season winds down, the need to improve remains, yet only time will tell how it all unfolds.